May marks the beginning of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month as well as South Asian Heritage Month. With these big moments in mind, many brands begin brainstorming ways to acknowledge and celebrate their employees in unique ways.
Duolingo was no different. We partnered with Zaria Parvez for the first time ever in 2021 after she heard about Accént through mutual connections. Zaria’s goal was to leverage the power of gifting to honor South Asian identities at Duolingo. She also wanted this particular gift to be presented at the company’s Happy Hour dedicated to AAPI month. The goal was to provide creative gifts, support South Asian brands, and educate the recipients.
Not only was this one of the first partnerships we had with Duolingo, it was also one of the very first large scale contracts we landed in the history of our budding startup. So, we knew we had to absolutely NAIL this.
Our thought was to create a beautiful unboxing experience with branded touch points. We also wanted to create the perfect culmination of gift products that encapsulated a touch of South Asian culture. As a South Asian, woman-owned business, we felt uniquely qualified for the task.
We first wanted to create a wearable and show-stopping piece, and opted for a custom designed black crew neck sweater. On the front, we incorporated the Duolingo Owl as well as typed out “marketing team” in a font that was reminiscent of sanskrit text. The back however is where we pulled out all of the stops! Our team worked to showcase the diversity and complexity of South Asian culture. We created a map of the subcontinent including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Within each country’s borders, we drew out a popular textile pattern unique to that specific region. A clothing item featuring popular clothing designs. It was truly a full circle moment!
Clothing has always been a defining characteristic of the region, so we were happy to include such an item. We also wanted to pay homage to South Asian foods and drinks. Food is an easy way to be introduced to a whole new culture that you might not be familiar with so our next two gifts follow this theme. First was a blend of Rose Cardamom Chai. Chai is an important device within South Asian to connect one another. An afternoon cup of tea is the perfect pastime to catch up with friends and family! The second was a Butter Chicken Masala kit including a pouch of premixed sauce featuring a blend of mouth-watering spices. The kit also came with comprehensive instructions on how to best create your own Butter Chicken dish - best suited for newbies!
Our last theme included in the box was the comfort of home. We included a mix of rose and jasmine scented hand-poured candles. These scents are directly derived from South Asian heritage and are heavily intertwined within the fabric of the culture, making it the perfect fit. And finally, we featured hand carved wooden tealights. Small pieces of decor can elevate any space, especially with such curated pieces all sourced authentically from South Asian-owned small businesses.
We were so grateful for the opportunity to work with a big name, especially since we were just starting out in the corporate gifting industry. These gifts were a game changer and people loved the thought behind everything included. The sweatshirts especially received the most hype, which encouraged us to keep going! This one project started the wave of even more opportunities to partner with Duolingo and we’re excited for even more to come.